How Do You Forgive?

April 18th, 2007 by Larry Smith

140927666_b340967604_m.jpgThe tragedy at Virginia Tech has many people looking for answers anywhere they can. For now, there’s the expected second-guessing, finger-pointing and political posturing; eventually, some will seek a certain sense of forgiveness, even if they’re not sure who to blame or how, exactly, to forgive. I’m always struck by stories of people who have been involved in the most unforgivable situations digging into their soul and accepting the apology, letting it go. One of the weirder but more poignant stories is from a few years back, surrounding a woman who suffered serious injuries after some punk thought it would be funny to throw a frozen turkey out of his car window. Face to face in court, where her decision to forgive her attacker dramatically reduced his sentence and certainly changed his life, The New York Times reported this exchange:

I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Mr. Cushing said over and over again. “I didn’t mean it.” Most of their exchange was whispered, but at one point Ms. Ruvolo’s advice to him was just barely audible.

“It’s O.K., it’s O.K.,” she said. “I just want you to make your life the best it can be.”

My friend Bernice Yeung has been on the “forgiveness beat” for a while now, writing stories about people confronting each other as they attempt to deal with the most awful circumstances. Bernice does powerful pieces about people like Phyllis Rodriguez, a woman whose son died at the World Trade Center, and who came to know and grieve with Aicha el-Wafi Moussaoui, mother of Zacarias. It’s Bernice who told me about the Forgiveness Project, a nonprofit which has a mission of promoting understanding, and I suspect closure, through the act of forgiveness.
“We use stories … to open up a dialogue and promote understanding,” explains its mission statement on the site. “Many of those whose voices are celebrated on this website, also share their stories in person. We work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who want to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.”

Anyone who needs a push to forgive or forget or some combo therein should take a look at this powerful storytelling application.

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